Assembly Passes Wartime Nisei Graduates Bill

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SACRAMENTO.—Assemblymember Warren T. Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County) on Monday, May 4, announced that Assembly Bill 37, a bill to extend honorary degrees to individuals whose college education was disrupted due to the evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II, passed the Assembly Floor on a vote of 79-0. “I am very pleased with the Assembly’s action today,” said Furutani. “Today’s vote represents a resounding endorsement of a measure that is, frankly, long overdue.” 

AB 37 calls upon California’s higher education institutions to confer honorary degrees to individuals who were removed from their studies during WWII. Over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and communities and incarcerated. Of that number, 2,567 Japanese American students were enrolled in California’s higher education institutions. 

As a member of the Los Ange­les Unified School District Board (LAUSD) in 2004, Furutani was instrumental in crafting the Japanese American Internment Diploma Resolution. The board approved the first-ever resolution to retroactively grant a high school diploma to any person who was enrolled in an LAUSD high school immediately preceding his or her internment and did not graduate as a result. 

“AB 37 marks the ‘unfinished business’ of our time with respect to honoring a class of individuals who endured a grave injustice,” said Furutani. 

While a number of institutions in the state and country have sought to extend due recognition to these individuals, the vast majority of institu­tions in which these former students were enrolled have not done so.

 “These institutions have had an opportunity to extend honorary de­grees to these college Nisei for more than 60 years,” said Furutani. “The implementation of AB 37 will require a partnership between system offices, community organizations, and Nisei individuals and their families — a process which will become clearer as the bill moves forward.”

AB 37 moves to the Senate for consideration.

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